Our heroes wend their merry way through the corridors of the Haunted Keep and find themselves at Room 8.
This is the text, as per Moldvay Basic D&D:
Room #8 (15′ square): This room was once a guard barracks. The floor has collapsed and the ceiling leaks. The result is a 3′ deep pool filled with scummy water. A partially waterlogged bunk floats in the water. A rusted iron statue of a beautiful warrior maiden lies at the bottom of the pool. The water is safe to walk through and the status is harmless and worthless.
Dunno about you, but if a room looks like that, it just screams Skill Challenge to me.
“This room looks like it was once a guard barracks. The floor has collapsed and the ceiling leaks, flooding the room below completely. The result is a 20′ deep pool filled with scummy water and no easy way around the edge. A partially waterlogged bunk floats in the water, and you can just make out a rusted iron statue of a beautiful warrior maiden immersed at the bottom of the room below. It appears to have some kind of large octopus-like creature draped around it. The only exit from the room is in the North wall, and it’s going to take a Skill Challenge to get there.”
Here’s my Golden Rule when it comes to designing Skill Challenges: Don’t. By nature I’m a Lazy GM. You can guarantee that if you spend an hour working out all of the possible permutations and uses for skills to tackle a particular challenge, they’ll think of others that work just as well (if not better), so why do the work? Set the challenge, design the difficulty level and sit back. Let the players do the work instead. Sure, think of a couple of likely skills that will come up, but don’t commit anything to paper or pixel. Instead, join in the discussion, push when they need pushing and make the Challenge what it should be – a fun brainstorming session instead of a “guess what skills the GM wants us to use” frustration.
So, the challenge is “How to get to the door” and they need 5 successes before 3 fails. The octopus exists to provide a bit more of a challenge and dissuade the players from spending too much time in the water. Hairy Bob, being the most direct problem solver in the group, decides to swim across to the bed. As soon as he enters the water the octopus detaches from the statue, the water turns black and Bob feels suckers touch his leg.
“Uhhhh…. I make a Swim check.”
“8. I don’t make a Swim check. Uhhhhh…… help?”
That’s one fail, and Bob is now 5 feet underwater in the inky blackness.
As an aside, the 4e D&D rules for drowning are not great. OK. They’re downright rubbish. Outside of strenuous situations, any character can hold their breath underwater for 3 minute regardless of CON, Size or whatever (DMG159). In a combat situation, they have to make a DC 20 Endurance check at the end of any round in which they take damage – so a Wizard could theoretically keep himself at a distance underwater and lob Magic Missiles to their hearts’ content, or a Fighter could mix it up mano-a-mano and, so long as he doesn’t get hit, he doesn’t even need to make a check, ever. Daft.
All hell breaks lose. Squidgee tries to leap onto the floating bunk bed (Acrobatics DC25) and makes it, just. That’s one success. Parson Jeffries casts Divine Glow at the Octopus, firing blindly, and hits (I love you, Close Blast 3 in a 15′ room). They can now just about make out the squirming form of Bob in the darkness. Another success.
“We need the rope! Who’s got it?”
“BOB WE NEED THE ROPE!”
They’re up to two successes against one fail, and Bob tries to make a Strength check to break free (DC20). He fails, miserably. I ask him to make a DC20 Endurance check or lose a Healing Surge. Repeat after me: Healing Surges are the new Hit Points.
He makes that (it doesn’t count towards the Skill Challenge though), but he’s still pulled down another five feet by the giant octopus. Squidgee paddles the bed so he’s over the glowing octo and thrusts his hands into the water. I call for an opposed Strength check, him versus the giant octopus to see who wins the Tug o’Bob. Now, Squidgee is STR 11, and I’d guess this Giant Octopus is STR 20, so that’s d20 versus d20+5. Not good odds…………..
Next time: Will Bob stopping Bobbing? Stay tuned!
Parson Jeffries, Good Half-elf Cleric-1
Str 13, Con 10, Dex 12, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 15
HP 22 bloodied 11 surges 5×7/day
AC 16 (Chainmail), Fort 11, Ref 11, Wis 14, Speed 5
Mace +3 vs AC 1d8+1, versatile
Lance of Faith/w +2 vs Ref, Righteous Brand/w +3 vs AC
Commander’s Strike/e, Channel Divinity/e, Turn Undead/e +2 vs Will, Healing Word/e, Divine Glow/e +2 vs Ref
Cascade of Light/d +2 vs Will
Diplomacy +9, History +4, Insight +9, Religion +4
Dilettante (Warlord), Dual Heritage, Group Diplomacy, Healer’s Lore, Ritual Casting
Rituals: Gentle Repose, Make Whole